McCormick's first novel (published in 2000) is a small book, both in format (5" x 7") and page count (151). Its intended audience is female 'tweens and young teens.
Callie, 15, is a "cutter"—she cuts her arms with her mother's Exacto craft blade and wears long sleeves to hide the scars. When she inexplicably cuts her palm, she ends up in Sea Pines, a residential treatment facility. For the first 50 pages, Callie talks to no one—not her therapist, her Group, or any of the attendants—no one. As one super-jerk reviewer said, the story is told from "inside Callie's own head." Unwilling to allow anyone to help her help herself, the story is mostly about her group-mates: one very obese girl, two anorexics, two drug addicts, and later on another cutter, Amanda, who proudly displays her scars and talks about the "exquisite pain" and "control" of cutting. Amanda, a street-wise smart-ass, tells Callie that spraying the cut with hairspray or rubbing alcohol makes the scar more pronounced, "but that hairspray works the best."
Swell. Just the right message for thirteen-year-old girls.
McCormick writes well—she ought to, considering she spent three years researching and writing this tiny book—but the term "mental illness" is never mentioned. Not once. On page 4, Callie tells us about Sea Pines from inside her own head,
"We, by the way, are called guests. Our problems are called issues. Most of the girls are anorexic . . . Some are druggies . . . The rest, like me, are assorted psychos. We're called guests with behavioral issues. The nurses are called attendants. And the place is called a residential treatment facility. It is not called a loony bin."Double that previous "Swell." Callie is a psycho in a looney bin. She does not have a mental illness, and she is not a patient in a hospital. We learn nothing about the etiology (cause) of Callie's cutting until we're ¾ through the book: **SPOILER** Callie cuts herself as punishment for causing her little brother's asthma. Can you say lame? **END OF SPOILER**
Cutting is a serious illness, but this book is not the place for either a girl or a parent to garner any information about it. Despite three pages of "Raves for Cut" by idiot reviewers, I believe a more appropriate title would be Nancy Drew and a Case of Issues.